Unexpected things in life lead us to where we can have faith. God also uses unexpected things in our life to shake us up so that we can be closer to him.
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
Just before this passage, Paul and Silas had driven a fortune-telling demon out of a girl, and her owners were upset because they knew they would lose the profit they received from her fortune-telling. They saw a business for profit, not a person.
The same can be true in our religious world – many people label themselves Christians and even make a living from speaking engagements and endorsements but won’t preach anything publicly that will upset their base. Paul and Silas looked at this woman and didn’t see a business or a way to make money – they saw a person. She had spiritual issues and needed a spiritual solution. She was not free.
When you have been set free like Paul and Silas, you want to set others free.
In the passage above, Paul and Silas were put in jail and the jailer was given specific orders to make sure they did not escape. Maybe he had heard about how Peter had escaped both from jail in Acts 5 and prison in Acts 12, and the prison guards were executed for that escape.
So what did Paul and Silas do? They began to sing. And as they sang and prayed and believed God would help them. As a result, God shook up their foundation.
God shakes our foundations
Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!
We all have our own foundation. Our foundation is what our beliefs and practices are built on. I grew up without a religious background, and my life was built on trying to find a positive emotional experience. Others of us grow up very religious and with a fervor to obey the Bible, but can become used to overlooking our heart condition and just trying to comply with rules and traditions.
Either way, God will allow us to go through experiences that shake up our foundation to help us be closer to him. Studying the Bible is an amazing experience that helps us form our convictions about how God will use our lives. It’s a time where we ask ourselves questions about our convictions, our doctrine, our hearts and our sins. This is a good experience because ultimately it helps us be closer to God.
God also opens doors. He wants us to do more than we can ask or imagine. He wants our lives to change so we can change the lives of others. He wants us to believe our best years are ahead of us, not behind us.
God removes chains
Warren Buffet once said,
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be removed.”
God is not trying to control us, he wants to set us free. He doesn’t want us to be bound by rules, but to be bonded in a relationship with him. We can get upset and fight for our rules and traditions but not see how dysfunctional our relationships can be. Let God take your chains off!
What are my chains?
We know what our chains are, and so does God. We feel the burden of every link we carry into each of our relationships. God doesn’t want us to be confused, so he lists out sins in 28 different places in the New Testament, like Galatians 5:19-21 and 2 Timothy 3:1-6. He wants us to be clear about our own personal sin.
What are the chains of sin you need to be set free from? Bitterness? Sexual immorality? Gossip? Pride? Hatred? Selfish ambition? Deceit? Envy? Fits of rage?
God is mighty, but despises no one; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.
…But if people are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, he tells them what they have done— that they have sinned arrogantly. He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.
Job 36:5, 8-11
God will tell us what we have done, and he makes us listen to correction. He commands us to repent – to turn from our sin to him. That’s why we need to study our Bible to learn how to take on sins in our lives. God wants to talk to us.
Why is it difficult for God to have a talk with us? We often value too much the opinion of men. Are you influenced more by one of the things below, or God? None of these things are bad, they just aren’t God:
- Radio stations
- Spiritual books
- Seminars and retreats
God has made himself available to us in so many different translations and different platforms – he wants to talk to us. No other source than the Bible can communicate what God really thinks and feels. How much are you influenced by the Bible?
The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer was shaken. He had followed all the rules. His fear of man and punishment led him to a place where life was no longer worth living. When he got there, Paul told him to “Stop!”
Sometimes we need someone to tell us to “Stop!” Stop quitting when things get hard, stop quitting when things hurt your feelings, stop giving up when you run up against your character or the extent of your faith. At the point we want to give up, God is trying to open a door for us.
God wants us to go from relying on ourselves and our own understanding to having an unexpected faith.
God opens doors
The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.
The jailer was stunned – he called for the lights so he could see who these men really were. Why didn’t they escape? Why didn’t they run? Who are these people?
The earthquake shook him up, but he was compelled to want to know God because of the kind of men Paul and Silas were. As disciples, our lives and our convictions all help someone else define their view of God.
The jailer went to bed just doing his job and awoke to an unexpected faith in God. Maybe you didn’t expect your life to be where it’s at, yet God has drawn you to search and find him. You are learning to have faith.
Finally, the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” and Paul answers that the first thing to do is believe in Jesus. Take time to start reading the book of John to get to know Jesus better, and get involved in personalized Bible study to learn how the word of God can open doors in your life too.